Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, and auto suppliers Bosch and ZF said they were co-operating with German authorities after their offices were searched as part of a steel price fixing investigation.
Germany’s cartel office said six car manufacturers and suppliers were searched on June 23 as part of an investigation into potential price collusion by companies purchasing steel.
“In total, 50 members of staff at the cartel authority took part. They were supported by police and criminal authorities,” a spokesman for the authority said, declining to detail which companies were subjected to the probe.
A spokesman for Volkswagen said: “We confirm that representatives from the Federal Cartel Office searched the offices in Wolfsburg as part of an ongoing probe. Volkswagen supports the authority with its investigation.”
Daimler, ZF, and BMW said they too had been searched and were co-operating with authorities.
Bosch said its premises in Zuffenhausen and Gerlingen-Schillerhoehe in Stuttgart had been searched.
General Motors unit Opel said it was not part of the investigation.
Carmakers are one the major pillars of the German economy, and steel is a key component for auto companies.
On average, about 900 kilograms of steel is used in every car, according to the World Steel Association.
Germany’s antitrust office, like the European Commission, has the power to levy fines of up to 10% of annual sales, though penalties seldom approach that level.
While the auto industry has been targeted by a series of EU price-fixing probes, these have focused more on specific components or products rather than collusion on purchases of raw materials.
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